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3 December 2007, 09:51 am
Equator Beckons For Transat Fleet
Fonica in action
Fonica currently holds the lead

Transat Ecover-BtoB 2007

The first monohulls in the Transat Ecover-BtoB were set to cross the equator around 05:00 hours UTC on Monday in a fairly stable east to southeasterly wind.
Michel DESJOYEAUX (FRA) currently holds the lead, five days into the race from Bahia, Brazil to Finistere, Brittany. He regained pole position from Yann ELIÈS (FRA) midway through Sunday afternoon, but the distances between the top eight are still very slim...

"Sunday at the equator": the story behind the Transat Ecover-BtoB is a simple one on this the fourth day of racing! Up front, the two leaders are making over 14 knots on a NNE'ly heading with the tradewinds on their beam, just a few miles ahead of six other solo sailors: Foncia snatched control of the fleet from Generali mid-radio session with the Race HQ at the Paris Boat Show today...

"Michel is overtaking me! He's going a fraction quicker, but he is under genoa whilst I'm still under staysail: I'm going to have to manoeuvre... and step up the pace a level. Here we have glorious sunshine but conditions are strange for the upcoming doldrums: there is a windless zone emerging upwind of us. I'm going to follow the 'professor' in any case, probably to around 27° West. He's going fast and he's giving it his all..." indicated ELIÈS at 14:00 UTC yesterday.

DESJOYEAUX seemed to have everything in hand: "I've taken off my foulies and there's not much more I can do today. Just a bit of tidying up: sponging the bilges and doing a Sunday spring clean… I made the most of Generali being under a cloud to overtake him. We're living heeled over, it's hot and wet and we're getting used to the noise... The doldrums? I'll adjust my course at the last minute!"

A Windless Zone Ahoy!

It was a slightly different scenario for Loïck PEYRON (FRA) on Gitana Eighty. "I'm really looking forward to getting hit by a depression! That will mean that we're approaching the finish… It's a bit tedious at the moment and still as hot as ever. We've already covered 900 miles in the past three days: it's not bad! In my opinion, the lead group will remain bunched together to pass the doldrums… But it looks far from simple...: there are some little circles on the grib files, which means that there's no wind…"

Marc GUILLEMOT (FRA) on Safran is in agreement: "It's like an oven down below... And I caught a flying fish in my ballast tank: I've got it out but it's not in good condition! We should pass the equator tonight [Brazilian time] and I'm beginning to shift to the West a little more than my friends: I've decided to separate myself from the fleet who don't want me any more and I reckon that the best option is the American one as opposed to the African one. We'll see. The boat's going well and is proving to be very successful..." he said.

In the same leader group, the solo sailors contacted by radio informed us of their small technical issues: Mike GOLDING (GBR) on Ecover said, "I've had ballast problems and the leak has spread across the boat flooding the engine and the batteries. However, I have managed to contain the leak and resolve the electrical issues now. My new boat, which had only done four days at sea before the TJV goes really well downwind and reaching and it's okay upwind too. I'm not much looking forward to the doldrums it has to be said!"

On Cheminées Poujoulat, Bernard STAMM (SUI) also had his hands in the tool box: "I have computer problems: my main computer has crashed and since Saturday lunchtime I haven't been able to get any grib files. I'm making do with my secondary computer. Right now, the wind is on the beam at fifteen knots but I had a squall this morning and the seas are still a bit messy."

Squalls have also been on the menu for the chasing pack but already their 100-200 deficit is starting to show. "I am a bit tired due to the squalls sweeping across the zone… I've manoeuvred by hoisting the gennaker a few hours ago but I had to go back to the solent later..." observed Yannick BESTAVEN (FRA) on Cervin EnR. And for Jean-Baptiste DEJEANTY (FRA) on Maisonneuve: "I am off the islands of Fernando de Noronha. I was still with Roxy yesterday evening, but Samantha is going a tad quicker. In fact the boat is finding it hard to punch through the big chop so I'm trying out some new sail combinations!"

The 15 sailors are gradually plugging along towards the change in hemisphere this Sunday, the leaders crossing the equator at around 28-29° West in the middle of the night. Meantime the first chasing pack (Roxy, Maisonneuve, Akena Vérandas) will cross into the north about eight hours later and Dee CAFFARI (GBR) on Aviva, delayed by her express return to Bahia, should reach the same hemisphere at the end of Monday. There is still a long, long way to go before the finish though and CAFFARI's confidence has been boosted by a successful spell under her repaired gennaker...

Transat Ecover-BtoB -

Kate Jennings (As Amended By ISAF)
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